Cardinals vs. Cowboys: 3 key things to watch in the Hall of Fame Game

Posted at 4:18 PM, Aug 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-02 10:01:28-04

The Arizona Cardinals will face the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football on Sept. 25. But first, they'll face each other in the NFL's first preseason game of 2017. 

The Cards and Cowboys will meet in the annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio on Thursday beginning at 5 p.m. Arizona time. The Cardinals' starters will not play in the game, which means rookies and other young players looking to make the 53-man regular-season roster will be heavily featured.

Here are three key things to watch when the Cardinals take the field in Canton.

1. How will Gabbert and Knight do?

With starting quarterback Carson Palmer and backup Drew Stanton taking the night off, it'll be the Blaine Gabbert and Trevor Knight show for the Cardinals on Thursday.

Gabbert, who made our list of five players to watch during training camp, was signed by the Cardinals in May. The former first-round pick could challenge Stanton for the backup role. Knight is an undrafted rookie from Texas A&M; the 6-foot-1, 215-pounder has a lot to prove in order to make the roster.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians announced Gabbert will play the first half and Knight will play the second half Thursday night. Will either man look sharp in his Cardinals debut?

2. Is Chad Williams the real deal?

Bruce Arians has a history of drafting outstanding wide receivers in the third round, including Mike Wallace, T.Y. Hilton, Emmanuel Sanders and John Brown. On Thursday, we'll get our first true look at the Cardinals' 2017 third-round pick, wide receiver Chad Williams.

The 6-foot-2, 204-pounder out of Grambling State was projected as a fifth- or sixth-round pick, but the Cardinals took Williams in Round 3 because they fell in love with his size, strength and, as Larry Fitzgerald put it, "deceptive speed." Williams is not short on confidence and athletic ability, and Cards fans are anxious to learn whether those attributes will translate to on-field success.

3. Which second-year defensive players will shine?

Keep an eye on this trio of second-year pros Thursday:

-Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, the Cardinals' 2016 first-round pick, is looking to prove he's worthy of more playing time in 2017 after only appearing in five games last year. He's listed behind Frostee Rucker and Josh Mauro on the team's initial depth chart.

-Cornerback Brandon Williams, the Cards' 2016 third-round selection, lost his starting job opposite Patrick Peterson early last season but is looking to earn back that role. He's listed behind veteran Justin Bethel on the depth chart.

-Linebacker and former Arizona Wildcats star Scooby Wright III was the Browns' seventh-round pick last year, but the Cardinals signed Wright off the Browns' practice squad late last season. The 6-foot-1, 247-pounder seems to have a good chance to make the roster, as he's currently listed as the team's No. 2 "dollar" linebacker behind rookie Haason Reddick, as last year's starter, Deone Bucannon, continues to recover from offseason ankle surgery.

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